Lions’ sixth-rounders: DL Jeremiah Ledbetter, QB Brad Kaaya
Allen Park – With two picks in the sixth round, the Detroit Lions finally added a defensive lineman, and followed it up with the addition of a third quarterback to the roster.
With pick No. 205, the team snagged Arkansas defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter and stopped Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s slide at No. 215.
Kaaya was the ninth quarterback selected in the draft. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder completed 62 percent of his passes for the Hurricanes in 2016 for 3,532 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
A three-year starter in a pro-style system, Kaaya will compete with second-year pro Jake Rudock to back up starter Matthew Stafford. Rudock was a sixth-round pick last season.
A Los Angeles native, Kaaya opted to attend Miami after Al Golden became the first coach to offer him a scholarship. The pair will reconnect in Detroit, where Golden currently coaches the tight ends.
“He’s the guy I owe a lot of things to, as to why I’m in the position that I am now,” Kaaya said. “I love that guy to death.”
Kaaya said the two regularly spoke throughout the pre-draft process, although the quarterback never got the impression the Lions were interested.
Additionally, Kaaya is familiar with the state of Michigan. His mother, actress Angela Means, best known for her role as Felicia in the move “Friday,” is a Saline native. Kaaya said he spent a lot of time in the area while growing up and attended football camp at the University of Michigan several times.
The son of a former NFL running back, Ledbetter stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 280 pounds, giving him the bulk to be able to slide inside on third down.
“I’m going to play any position the Detroit Lions want me to play,” Ledbetter said. “I’m a defensive lineman, so I can play D-tackle or D-end.”
The heaviest Ledbetter played at Arkansas was 285 pounds. He’d need to pack on a few more if he’s going to play tackle in Detroit, but he said he’s open to whatever the coaching staff asks.
A junior college transfer, he played two years for the Razorbacks, recording 49 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble last season.
He’ll join a deep competition for a roster spot at defensive end behind projected starters Ziggy Ansah and Kerry Hyder. Free-agent addition Cornelius Washington, who signed a two-year, $5.8 million contract this offseason, also figures to be part of the rotation.
Ledbetter will be in the mix for a job along with last season’s waiver claim Armonty Bryant and 2016 sixth-round choice Anthony Zettel.
The new addition boasts a strong athletic profile, running the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds with 29 reps on the bench.
Round / overall: Sixth / 205
Position: Defensive end
Height / weight: 6-3 / 280
Breakdown: His dad Weldon playing running back at Oklahoma (1979-82) and was a seventh-round pick of Tampa Bay in 1983. He ran a 4.84 40-yard dash at the combine, and had 49 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season for Arkansas. He has a compact body and can explode into blockers, and he also has good arm strength. A concern at the pro level is whether Ledbetter will be explosiveness enough to play on the edge or have enough mass to play the interior.
Round / overall: Sixth / 215
Height / weight: 6-4 / 214
Breakdown: A three-year starter for the Hurricanes, Kaaya does a fine job of reading the defense and managing the game. Kaaya understands his limitations and doesn’t take chances. His mechanics and footwork are strengths. But velocity and accuracy have been issues. Completed only 38 percent of his passes between 11-20 yards last season.